RETRO: Taking a look back at the history of Sheffield toolmaking family

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This week we take a look at the history and home of the Lockwood brothers, best known for their involvement in the toolmaking trade.

The round window in the clue picture can be found at No 87 Clarkehouse Road but the house, or its owner, that is the centre of this article lived next door at No 85.

This property doesn’t have anything interesting on its outside to use as a clue picture, that said, the house was the home of one of the Lockwood brothers, the following information is from Geoff Tweedale’s Directory of Sheffield Cutlery Manufacturers.

Thomas Porter Lockwood, who lived at 85 Clarkehouse Road, was the great grandson of one of the founders of Lockwood Brothers, John Lockwood, the founder hailed from Ecclesfield which had a long tradition of making tools, nails, gimlets etc.

John was the apprentice of a file maker named John Burgin and in 1767 he became a freeman and according to Jeff Warner it was that year he was assigned the trade mark “CX”.

By 1787 he was listed in directories as Locksley & Lockwood and besides the “CX” mark but in my 1787 directory they also had the mark “WL”, the CX mark had an arrow above it pointing skyward and the WL mark had a plus sign above it.

John the founder had two sons, John Junior and William.

In 1798, at the age of 23, William moved to Sheffield and took premises on Arundel Street and opened his business as merchant and file maker.

By 1803 he had met, wooed and married Ann Sorby whose family was a well established tool firm working out of the Wicker.

In 1817, Lockwood and Sorby were partners at the Arundel Street premises.

On July 8 1829 William died and his remains were taken back to Ecclesfield to be buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, this sad event left John Lockwood Jnr, as the senior partner till the next generation of the Lockwood family, William had died leaving four sons who through time became the Lockwood Brothers, the brothers William (1807-1873) John (1813-1876) Joseph (1815-1902) and Charles (1822-1872).

In 1837, Lockwood Brothers were operating out of the works on Arundel Street, with John Sorby & Sons on Spital Hill (the building is still there) just three years later the brothers went into partnership with John Sorby but after just four short years the partnership had dissolved and the brothers bought up the Sorby order book and all its marks.

In the 1861 census Lockwood’s employed 500 men, women and children and by 1865 their premises on Arundel Street were expanded and rented a few shops in the newly built Butcher Works, it was here that they went into major cutlery production, besides cutlery they made a whole array of working knives as well as pocket and pen knives, they built a reputation on the high quality of their hunting and skinning knives.

In 1906 the acquired a silver mark so they could tap into the American market, especially the South American market and like today they were hit by forgeries from Germany using their mark which prompted them to change to a running Ostrich with the words “Real Knife” and “Pampa”.

Three of the brothers died in the 1870s, Charles on June 12 1872, aged 63, William on February 20 1873, aged 66, John on September 12 1876, aged 63 he was buried in Ecclesall while his two brothers were taken back to Ecclesfield to the family plot, Joseph the last of the Lockwood brothers passed on August 27 1902 and he was buried in Fulwood.

Joseph’s son William died on December 13 1890 at his home, the Grange in Ranmoor he was just 42 years old.

The great grandson of the founder John Lockwood, George Francis Lockwood took on the reigns of the company and in 1886 he became the youngest ever Master Cutler at the age of 36, it was while he was at the helm of the company that Lockwood’s became one of the leading cutlery manufacturers in the town, at the turn of the century the Lockwood Brothers had left Arundel Street and production was taken to the Spital Hill premises.

The business had made each of the brothers a small fortune, Charles left £12,000, William left £40,000, John left £30,000 and Joseph left £12,00, considerable sums back then and as always the company went in decline as most of the large cutlery manufacturers did, by the late 1900s they were losing money and when George Lockwood died at his Barnsley Road home on March 21 1919 at the age of 69 he left just £4,281, he was buried in the Ecclesall parish churchyard, the same year the firm became part of the Sheffield Cutlery Manufacturers Ltd, the mainstay of this group wad Needham, Veall & Tyzack but by 1927 after suffering years of heavy losses, Lockwood Brothers assets, order book and all its marks were bought by Joseph Elliot.

This ended one of Sheffield most successful cutlery manufacturers.

Today their old premises still stand with the Spital Hill Works getting some refurbishment that has been needed for some years.

I know I go on about making cutlery but if you have never seen the skill and dexterity of the craftsmen and workers in the industry you cant begin to understand why Sheffield became the leader in the cutlery market through out the world.